Tackle ecological and human rights crises with good public policies

Lifegate, an online and radio-based news source in Italy that focuses on sustainable development, interviewed Maude Barlow, Honorary Chair of the Council of Canadians, when she is was in Rome, Italy late last year meeting with groups about the growing movement in that country to stop the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). She spoke with Lifegate about the global water crisis and its clear links to trade deals.

“The World Trade Organisation reminds us that every day two billion people can only drink contaminated water and don’t have access to basic sanitation,” she said. “The ecological and human right crises must be tackled with good public policies. We must take care of water, we must stop exploitation and uncontrolled withdrawal, stop polluting it and guarantee the right to access clean water for everyone. This won’t happen if large corporations continue to control water.”

Trade agreements have given corporations more control and access to the world’s freshwater, she adds. “One-fifth of the water is lost due to the rules of free trade,” she explained. “Let’s take the water contained in commercial products that travel across thousands of kilometres as an example. Many countries damage their water resources, taking them away from citizens in order to sell more products on international markets. Continuing this type of trade means damaging the environment. The pressure on water is increasing, since the demand for this finite resource is increasing.”

CETA, she says, like other trade agreements, has been created at the behest of large corporations so they can continue to expand their business globally and increase their profits. “I don’t want to condemn trade itself, but the problem is that the trade carried out by corporations isn’t the solution to the crisis we’re facing,” she said. “The worst thing the environment and for us is that these treaties offer multinationals the chance to prevent governments from legislating in the public interest.”

Barlow implored Italians to stay united and strong in their opposition to CETA, noting that if the deal is ratified by all parties, it will make it even more difficult for each country to legislate in the interest of their citizens. In Italy, farming is a large concern, including controlling the pollution caused by the use of pesticides.

“The pesticide situation is dire and it concerns the whole world,” said Barlow. “We can’t point the finger at the CETA for the current situation in Italy, but we can state that it will not offer a solution to the crisis, it will in fact help to maintain the current situation of pollution and contamination going forward. I believe we need new ethics of water. If the assessment is negative, then we must refuse to sign commercial treaties, build aqueducts, or continue tolerating the use of pesticides.”

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